Karen Robidoux 27 is charged with the murder of her one-year-old son Samuel. The child was starved to death, supposedly due to a “prophetic vision,” which allegedly led the baby’s parents to withhold solid food for 51 days.

Robidoux’s husband Jacques was also charged and found guilty in a previous trial. He is now serving an automatic life sentence in prison.

Karen Robidoux’s lawyer says that cult “brainwashing” rendered his client “powerless” to stop the starvation of her son and that she felt compelled to follow the group’s beliefs.

Robidoux plead not guilty and now claims she is no longer a member of the cult called “The Body,” which is led by her father-in-law Roland Robidoux, reports NBC News of Providence.

However, the prosecutor scoffs at the brainwashing defense and says cult members still visit her weekly.

There is no doubt that what motivated Karen Robidoux to starve her child was religious devotion. She had no other reason to kill her baby and the prosecution hasn’t offered another motive.

But the jury in Jacques Robidoux’s trial rejected any religious defense and instead convicted the father regardless of his faith.

Will a second jury now find Karen Robidoux innocent due to sympathy for a mother driven by “prophecy” and peer pressure to neglect her child to death? It seems doubtful that the jury will place its sympathy with anyone other than the baby Samuel.

Historically, there has been little sympathy in court for cult members when their actions cause deaths.

This has been proven repeatedly through the Manson Family trials and the death sentences handed out to members of Aum in Japan. Nine Aum members have been sentenced to death thus far for their roles in the 1995 gas attack of Tokyo’s subway system that killed 19 and injured thousands.

Former Manson family followers such as Leslie Van Houten have found little sympathy even after thirty years in prison. Van Houten has been denied parole over and over again.

Charles Manson was not present for the grizzly Tate-La Bianca murders, but he was charged and convicted for his role anyway, as a cult leader who controlled his followers like puppets.

However, Roland Robidoux the leader of “The Body,” has yet to be charged with any crime.

This summer there were negotiations between the prosecutor and Karen Robidoux’s lawyer for a plea agreement. There was some speculation that she might plea guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

If history remains consistent a plea agreement is probably the best outcome she can expect.

Like other cult members who have caused deaths in the past, Karen Robidoux will likely have many years in prison to reflect upon her actions and the group that led her to tragedy.

Justice grinds slowly in Japan, but it does seem to grind fine and completely.

Seiichi Endo, once “health minister” for the notorious cult “Aum” helped produce the gas used in an attack on Tokyo subways seven years ago. He was sentenced to death by hanging today in a Tokyo courtroom. Endo is the ninth member of Aum to receive a death sentence, reports Mainichi Daily News.

The judge rejected a “brainwashing” defense offered by Endo’s lawyers. Once again proving that such a defense is not viable when violent cult members kill people.

Aum murdered 19 and injured thousands through the 1995 attack.

Aum’s once supreme leader Shoko Asahara has not been sentenced yet. However, It seems certain that he will eventually receive the death penalty.

In George Orwell’s seminal classic “1984” “Big Brother,” the omnipresent totalitarian society that controls his fictional world, seeks to wipe out any history it doesn’t like.

It appears that Scientology is now vying to become “Big Brother” of the World Wide Web.

Lawyers representing the organization that Time Magazine once called “The Cult of Greed,” have successfully persuaded an Internet historical archive to purge its files of material Scientology deems inappropriate, through its interpretation of the controversial US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, reports England’s Times on Line.

According to noted experts, destructive totalistic cults seek to control information.

Robert Jay Lifton, author of “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” wrote, “The totalist environment seeks to establish domain over all that [it] sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses…It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.”

Lifton has often been cited to explain the mindset of destructive cult members and the process cults often use to produce that mindset.

Now Scientology seems to be demonstrating not only its apparent propensity to foster parallels with Orwellian themes, but also revealing aspects of its seemingly totalistic tendencies as well.

Has the “cult” created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard cast itself as the Internet’s “Thought Police”?

Rap star Coolio says he was “tricked” into participating in a program where people were “screaming and hollering” at him. He was featured in the Fox show “Celebrity Boot Camp,” which puts stars through stressful and rigorous training, reports Zap2it TV News.

Coolio said they used “brainwashing techniques like sleep deprivation” and added, “the training is designed to create instantaneous obedience.”

Hmmm, sounds a bit like some “cults”?

Perhaps this show allowed participants and the audience to get a taste of cult life? Interestingly, it seems that the tough guy rapper succumbed to peer pressure. Despite the stress and abuse Coolio said, “I just stayed because nobody else quit” and admitted taht even he was vulnerable or “soft,” regarding coercive persuasion.

But the rapper doesn’t want to do a rerun, “I finished my tour,” he stated bluntly.

Some of Coolio’s fans may not be so lucky. Many teens remain in controversial “boot camps” supposedly designed to correct them. And though some may wish to leave, they cannot decide when to end their “tour.” It’s doubtful that Fox will do a show about this subject for its entertainment value.

Arthur Sandrock 62 is in jail charged with sexual assault. He victimized two girls beginning at the ages of 8 and 10, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

The victims say they were “brainwashed.”

Sandrock claimed to be the “High Lord of Yawe” and “Fourth Son of God.” He told the girls sex was the way they could “satisfy God through him” and avoid hell.

The cult leader was supposedly waiting for “an invisible ship from the vortex,” which “would carry him to …God.”

But now the “High Lord” is waiting for his day in court and says he was just crazy. One examining psychiatrist initially agreed, but others say Sandrock is faking, or intentionally exaggerating his symptoms.

The controversy surrounding Sandrock does seem a bit silly though. It shouldn’t be difficult to discern that destructive cult leaders are often crazy. Of course mental health professionals would prefer we use more concise terms like “paranoid schizophrenic” and/or “psychotic.”

Charles Manson and Jim Jones are just two obvious examples.

David Koresh like Sandrock claimed he was a “High Lord” and also used that status to extract sexual favors from his victims. Marshall Applewhite, a former mental patient who led his followers to suicide in San Diego, was waiting for a spaceship too. In this context, there is nothing new or even particularly unique about the jailed Montana cult leader.

The sad thing about cults is that group members often become so deeply dependent upon their leaders that they will follow them without question. And this can easily become a formula for disaster when the leader is insane.

Lucille Poulin was once a Roman Catholic nun, but she left the church, declared herself a “prophet” and started a commune called the “Family,” reports the National Post.

Life in the Canadian cult included constant beatings and “brainwashing,” according to former members. Finally, some escaped from Poulin’s control and notified authorities.

Poulin now is in court facing charges.

Nine children were brought into this group by their parents. A twelve-year-old boy died due to a viral infection three years ago.

Kids have no choice when their parents decide to join a cult. Many are then schooled within the group and largely isolated from outsiders. Most abused children in cults don’t escape and many have endured years of abuse. A lawsuit filed by the former Krishna children is a frightening example. The class action lawsuit cites horrific physical and sexual abuse that went on for years.

“Das Experiment” opened this week in Germany. The film follows a group of volunteers as they evolve through an experiment about the effects of group persuasion, reports the New York Times.

An experiment like this was actually conducted during 1971 by Professor Philip Zimbardo in California, but it frightened the good doctor so much he shut it down after only one week.

The German thriller is an obvious analogy about the rise of a totalitarian regime like the Nazis. Germany is very vigilant regarding such groups and has dealt decisively with the Church of Scientology on that basis.

Robert Cialdini explores these same themes in his book “Influence.” Robert Jay Lifton wrote the definitive book titled “Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism.”

Another book just released “The Power of Cult Branding” details how the public is manipulated through marketing.

When people say only “nuts” join cults, this can be seen as a form of denial. Most people are susceptible to persuasion techniques. But it seems to be disconcerting to admit just how vulnerable the human mind really is.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo says that he may have been “brainwashed,” reported Reuters.

Milingo was the center of an intense controversy regarding his marriage to a “Moonie.” His now former wife is a member of Rev. Moon’s Unification Church.

The Archbishop has released a tell-all book titled “Fished out of the Mud.” He says that the Unification Church actually wanted to use him to set up a “parallel Catholic Church” in Africa. Apparently the “brainwashed” bishop would have then become its figurehead, essentially a front man for Moon.

It seems like mass weddings and being a billionaire is just not enough for Mr. Moon. The octogenarian “cult leader” now apparently wants to be a Pontiff too. Maybe his devoted followers already kiss his ring, or whatever.

A cult in France called “New Lighthouse” believes that the world will end next month. So far, one member has committed suicide and two others apparently made a serious attempt, reports Reuters. French authorities fear the implications of such a doomsday date and how it may affect the cult members.

Much like “Heaven’s Gate” whose 39 members died through a mass suicide in 1997, New Lighthouse members believe they too will be saved by a spaceship. Their leader Arnaud Mussy. says he will reign as the new Christ, when he and his followers are brought to Venus. Mussy has declared his brother the Pope.

Never mind that this all sounds ridiculous. The point is that those involved believe it and may end their lives as a direct result of that belief. Cult members are often subjected to a type of coercive persuasion within a group environment that produces undue influence and dependence upon a leader for crucial decision-making and value judgements. Historically, cult leaders have often become deeply delusional and then led their followers to tragedy.

After the Swiss cult mass suicide of the Solar Temple in 1994, which claimed 48 lives initially and many more later, French authorities are taking no chances. The police now have the New Lighthouse under close surveillance.

In recent years the European response to destructive cults has been more forthcoming, consistent and ongoing than within the United States.

Karen Robidoux, a member of the cult called “The Body,” is charged with the starvation murder of her year-old son. Jacques her husband has already been tried and convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the baby’s death. He testified that the group’s teachings and “visions” caused him to withhold solid food from his son.

Now Mrs. Robidoux’s attorney Joseph F. Krowski says he will use a cult version of the “battered woman’s syndrome defense” to explain his clients behavior, reports the Boston Globe. Krowski said that the 26-year-old mother was essentially bullied and brainwashed by cult members to cooperate.

Historically the “cult brainwashing” defense has not always fared well in court. Patty Hearst attempted to explain her behavior this way and was convicted anyway. Leslie Van Houten, of the infamous Charles Manson “Family” has been denied parole repeatedly, despite such an explanation regarding her crimes. But with Jacques Robidoux already serving an automatic life sentence in prison, perhaps the court will be more willing to consider such a defense for the young mother.

The jury in Karen Robidoux’s coming trial will be faced with a tough decision. When they deliberate they will likely discuss the apparent cult vicitimization of the defendant, but jurors will certainly be confronted by the facts concerning that cult’s ultimate victim, a defenseless year-old child.